Every version of Cortex Plus does such a tremendous job of capturing the feel of the licenses, from mechanics simulating literary and dramatic devices through to the naming structures and conventions. For Harry Potter, we have the four Houses of Hogwarts that look primed to be transformed into game statistics, so in this post, let’s take a look into how we might achieve that.
The first instinct may be to view Houses as a straight adaptation of Smallville’s Drives (Duty, Justice, Glory, Love, Power, Truth) and there are certainly strong ties with the Houses of Hogwarts: Power fits the ambitious nature of Slytherin; Love seems apt for Hufflepuff. Taking this route, we should note that each House has several qualities that are found desirable, so using them as Drives needs to allow for broader use than the Smallville attributes.
Alternatively, we could go with eight Drives, with two assigned to each House, although this has the potential to get a little unwieldy with so many dice assignments. A second option would be to have only one Drive mapping directly onto the Houses, but having two descriptive statements for each, giving more scope for both following those Drives and Challenging them. It may however be difficult to come up with two descriptors for each House when you are only “assigned” to one, so a middle ground may be to have two statements for your own House and just the one for each of the others.
Is this the route we will take with our Potter hack? Well, taking a look through the books and various wiki resources, it seems that the Houses present a way of approaching situations in addition to character traits (Ravenclaws use creativity and wit; Gryffindors adopt courage and chivalry). With this in mind, Houses as a game statistic could be thought of as representative of the type of methods employed to achieve your goal.
So if we were to take this approach, in what circumstances might each of the “House Stats” be used? Let’s look at each House and see if we can come up with some examples.
Gryffindor – values courage, bravery, and chivalry. In our Cortex Plus game, you would roll your Gryffindor die when facing challenges head-on, when refusing to back down, and when acting honourably.
Hufflepuff – values hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play. In game, you would roll your Hufflepuff die when persevering or biding your time, when standing by your friends, and when adhering to the spirit of the rules.
Ravenclaw – values intelligence, knowledge, creativity, and wit. Your Ravenclaw die would be rolled when investigating and researching, acting on knowledge you possess, and when attempting to outsmart your opposition.
Slytherin – values cunning, ambition, leadership, and resourcefulness. Roll Slytherin when attempting to be sneaky, when employing misdirection, or attempting to gain the advantage.
Slytherin ≠ Evil
Just because Minerva McGonagall can get cheered for electing to throw one quarter of the school into the dungeons doesn’t mean you need to follow suit in your game! Cunning and ambition are not of themselves evil traits, and it should never be a case of “you’re doing something bad, so roll your Slytherin die”.
Instead, look at the “how” and the “why” of the action: if someone looks to harm another as a means of meting out justice, that’s more appropriate for a roll of Gryffindor, or perhaps Hufflepuff if seeking revenge for a friend or loved one; disregard of the well-being or safety of others in pursuit of knowledge is still a Ravenclaw roll, however callous and cold such a goal may be.
Likewise, heroic actions can use the Slytherin die, and we frequently see Harry and Hermione utilise their cunning and resourcefulness to overcome obstacles throughout the series (Ron possibly less so, although he too has his moments). Harry does after all possess all the traits that could have placed him in Slytherin… except for his desire to be sorted there.
If we were to have the four Houses as one of our primary game statistics, we then have the question of how to distribute dice; we’ll leave aside the steps on a Pathway chart for the moment (a custom chart or two will be the subject of upcoming blog posts) and just look at the die sizes.
InSmallville, we have 6 Values starting at d4 and with 9 steps to assign between them, working out as 1.5 steps per attribute. If we applied that to the 4 Houses, it suggests we might want 6 increases to allot. Some example distributions would be d6/d6/d8/d8, d6/d6/d6/d10, and d4/d6/d6/d12. To me that looks like a nice balance: to be really focused in one area, you have to be particularly lacking in at least one other, but still allows for a fairly even middle ground.
So, what are your thoughts on this so far? Are there any actions characters could undertake that you feel couldn’t be modelled under the rules described? Am I being too stingy spreading the dice among the statistics? For the next post, we’ll look further into using Houses as statistics and how me might apply the descriptive statement ideas from Smallville, so if there’s anything you’d like to see covered, leave a comment below or drop a mail to infinity_craig [at] talktalk [dot] net